Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Week in an MMO Life: Back to Icecrown

Kantro visiting Zul'Drak
It is odd how things hold me back.  I was reading Syl's and Liore's posts about Achievements and even though I am a strong explorer and lean towards Syl's sentiment that it is mainly about the journey, I know that a strong part of me still wants to achieve.  (If you aren't familiar with the Bartle Test, you can read about it on Wikipedia and take the test on GamerDNA.)  I really didn't want to start running through LFRs over and over again (the explorer in me), but I needed some goals anyway (the achiever in me).  

I finally made enough Celestial Cloth to be able to make the White Cloud Belt and that meant I was very close to iLvl 480 on my priest where I could do all the LFRs except for Seige of Orgrimmar.  I spent a little bit of valor to put me over the number and received help from my guildmates getting the enchants I needed so it at least looked like I was trying.  Now, it is not that I actually ran any LFRs, part of me needed to 'achieve' that spot so I could run them if I wanted to.  I even started Pandaria's Legendary Questline and killed some bugs but I haven't done any LFRs, I just needed to know I could (sigh).

So that freed me so I could turn my attention to some new goals.  I am often frustrated because I can't farm ore on my primary two toons.  I went through the process of leveling a warrior before Burning Crusade so I could reforge the Broken Blade of Heroes, which dropped from a chest.  During Burning Crusade, I switched Kantra to Jewelcrafting and I also leveled my warrior so I wouldn't have to buy all the ore.  I hadn't really used him much since then (he was sitting at 71, mainly from mining in Icecrown for Kantra).  Now I had the freedom to level him again in order to be able to mine ore and finally be able to have the Embersilk to level First Aid.  As I bonus, I discovered that the two main thing I needed in order to be able to get Vial of Sands would be items from mining and to level Archeology.

I had a purpose where I could accomplish three things at once.  Efficiency is a big motivator for me.  Yes, I'm sure it would be faster to farm gold and buy what I needed, but this is where the Explorer in me comes out.  I want to be able to do it myself.  Complicated crafting tasks like Vial of Sands or the Broken Blade of Heroes seem like fun, unlike the steps in the Legendary Questline which look extremely repetitive.

So I dusted off my warrior with his Blacksmith made gear and started questing in Northrend.  I went from level 71 to 72 in Howling Fjord, but it seemed slow.  I then remembered that there were three Heirlooms that I bought for my mage and decided to do the same for my warrior.  The levels from 72 to 75 went much quicker and I was able to finish the I've Toured the Fyord achievement at the same time.  Nothing like being a slacker in other expansions to give you plenty of things to do.  I already had the Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills Achievements, so I figured I'd focus on Zul'Drak.

Now I was used to the relatively easy fighting and leveling with my heirlooms when I ran into the Gymer, King of the Storm Giants series of quests.  When you are riding on the back of a giant, your heirlooms don't help and when you can easily get caught in the middle of a tree (happened to me three times) it is even worse.  I kept having Gymer just barely die and eventually on the last quest I found the hint to right click on who he is fighting so he is using his auto-attack in addition to the special attacks. I don't mind dying too much, but when only playing once a week and I'm dying because of the mechanics of a giant I have to ride, I did get frustrated.

Fortunately, once that was done everything went smoothly, I was able to complete the Empire of Zul'Drak achievement (with some help from some level 90s at the Ampitheater of Anguish, thanks!), reach level 80 and level my Blacksmithing to 425 at almost the same time.  Now on to the Cataclysm quests and finally having the cloth for First Aid.  Not that I really need the bandages with all the food I've accumulated, but I feel like I should have it (sigh).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Casual Gamers View on Warlords of Draenor

World Warcraft Warlords of Draenor
I thought I'd include my reaction to all the big announcements about Warlords of Draenor from Blizzcon.  For the last three expansions, I either started late (Wrath and Mists) or stopped within a couple months of when the expansion started (Cataclysm).  This time I feel two things have changed:  the game has better accommodated the casual player and I have learned how to accept my limited play time.  This, along with the news from Blizzcon has me excited to start with everyone again like I did with the original game and Burning Crusade.  I'll list my reactions from what I like the most to what matters the least.

1.  Garrisons
The farm in Pandaria has been a great addition for my style of play.  I can play a few minutes in the morning before work and work on reputation and/or crafting ingredients.  Just as this is the first time I've received the quest achievement, this is also the first time I've been able to get exalted with most of the factions.  I can see the argument that it isn't really a game in that there is no skill involved, but anything that keeps people seeing progress, keeps people playing so I have to believe this is a big win for both casual players and Blizzard.  My concern about the Garrison is that it might expand the time required too much and instead of becoming a small time sink that helps me see progress, it becomes frustrating.  This is more of a risk because I will probably have 4 characters at max level for the first time (thanks to the Character Upgrade listed below).

2.  Flex Raiding
My guild is now alternating a Flex raid once a week with no ilvl requirement along with a normal raid.  I haven't taken advantage of it, partially due to time constraints and partially due to being so far behind the curve since I started Mists late.  I know I will still be late to the game with Warlords, but I won't be SO far behind because I plan to be there from the beginning.  So much of my gaming is solo due to my limited time, that I'm happy to have this outlet where I can play with my guild, even if I can't make it every week without much risk that they won't be able to play if I can't make it.

3.  Character Upgrade
At first I felt ambivalent about this since I like doing quests and I'm not a fan of skipping content.  However, once I started thinking about how I'd use it, I started to get excited about it.  I have a Druid that I leveled to the 20s back during Burning Crusade because I always liked the idea of playing a cat or bear and I wanted to see both the quests and how it played.  I enjoyed it, but he has sat in the 20s ever since then because I feel compelled to work on my Hunter (for questing), my Priest (for healing), my Mage (for Disenchanting), and my Warrior (for mining) first.  Now I'll both have a Druid that I can play with in high level content and I'll have a Skinner and Leatherworker that I can use for gear and bags.  Once I thought about what I could do, I went from ambivalent to excited about it.  Also, I'd suggest this is similar to what they did with the Death Knight class starting at level 55, only it isn't only limited to one class (that doesn't really appeal to me).

4.  10 new levels of quests
I liked the speed of leveling in Mists, but I was amazed that I so easily finished all the quests with just two characters and there was still quite a bit of overlap.  Because my time varies from week to week and I don't care to do PUGs, I am looking forward to more questing even though I do know that means I'll be even further behind others.

5.  New Character Models
The WoW character models have never bothered me.  I have always thought the more realistics models in MMOs look worse because they get too close without being able to get there.  Keeping with a more cartoon-like style is fine for a game and isn't as jarring for me.  However, that doesn't mean I don't like pretty pictures and with the Panda models in place now, I think we know they can do this without significantly impacting performance, another advantage WoW has against games with more realistic graphics.

7. UI Improvements
I'm a hoarder (even if I only play alliance, another playtime compromise I've learned to live with) and more space is a good thing.  That said, I have been able to spread my loot among a bunch of characters and I'm not really suffering for space so this isn't a bid deal for me.

6.  Dungeons
Since I don't play at normal times, play infrequently, and don't like PUGs, I've pretty much given up on dungeons.  I like to see them for lore reasons (another reason not to do them in a PUG), but this is one of the compromises I've made and I'm fine with that.

7.  Mythic Raids
I am glad there is something for the end game players since the game wouldn't be the same without them, but I will never see this and, again, I am fine with that.

8.  Draenor Boys Club
I give Apple Cider Mage a lot of credit for bringing feminist discussion into WoW and MMO gaming.  Just because most of the players are men and it is a fantasy game doesn't excuse subtle or not so subtle sexism.  As many people have stated, the presentation of the expansion so far is extremely male dominated.  That doesn't mean the game is sexist, but Blizzard will have to work at it NOT beginning sexist at this point.  I will be very interested to see how they react to this impression and for their female players.  Even though WoW is male-dominated, the game is much better, for me, because there are a lot of female players who enjoy the game.  I will be very interested to see how and if Blizzard works against the patriarchy that will be at the expansions foundation.

I am very excited about this expansion, the most I have been since Burning Crusade.  A lot of that has to do with my ability to accept how I can and can't play the game.  However Blizzard is also doing an awful lot to make this a better game for the casual player and I'm excited to see how it actually plays.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

World of Warcraft Apologists

Kanter, Cloud Serpent Rider
I feel like a spend a significant amount of time ready my blogroll.  For those of you actually reading my site from Blogger rather than using a RSS feed like Feedly (which I use), I try to read every blog you see to the right.  Part of the reason I blog is because I enjoy reading and reacting to what others post.  However, some weeks I'm more successful than others, so at this point I am almost 2 weeks behind.  So just the other day I was reading the post "I Play WoW and I'm not Sorry" on Liore's blog Herding Cats and I felt a need to respond.

As I have said a few times before, I starting blogging at a time when I was looking to come back to playing an MMO.  I knew I couldn't play often and I had been away for a while and I thought rather than going back to WoW, there had to be a better game for me to play.  

However, what I found was that WoW was the best game for me to play.  I have limited time and World of Warcraft is easy to play in short periods of time.  I don't have to learn a new system or new lore when I play WoW.  I have friends who know me and are happy to help me.   I can play with my daughter and as long as I limit interaction with others in the game (which I can pretty easily do) I feel safe that there won't be anything too offensive.  I know that while the game won't be the prettiest, it will shine through Blizzard's thorough polish. 

I have a huge number of things I can do with my short play times and I can do most of them by myself if I want to.  I can see new places and learn new lore.  I can build my reputation with others and gather more toys.  I can control a set of crafters who can provide tools to and help each other in ways that makes the game more enjoyable to me.

World of Warcraft is best game for me both because of who I am and because of what is in the game.

I respect people like the Godmother who is an unabashed World of Warcraft enthusiast.  I also respect Wolfshead who thinks World of Warcraft has lead MMOs in the wrong direction.  However, I join Liore as a Wow Apologist:  "I, too, play World of Warcraft and I'm not Sorry!"